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Morris library survey indicates overall support and for possible referendum

Kayla Erdahl and her son Royce use the Morris Public Library on the morning of Sept. 7. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times

Survey says: The Morris Public Library is valued in the community and people view it as a community gathering place. And many of those who responded to the survey said they'd support a referendum to expand or renovate the library.

Library director Anne Barber continues to glean through survey results and information from follow-up focus groups as she is encouraged by the overall survey results.

"It does help to see the numbers," Barber said. "To hear what people think... It's definetly encouraging."

"This really confirms how vital the library is in the community," library board member Sue Granger said.

The library used the Center for Small Towns on the campus of the University of Minnesota Morris to conduct the survey earlier this summer..

The survey was sent to residents in Morris and nine surrounding residents that own property. The online survey was distributed through reminder postcards sent to those who received the paper survey.

Kelly Ashe of the Center for Small Towns said the library received 554 surveys which is a response rate of 25 percent. The response rate is impressive and is not the typical response rate, Ashe said.

"We did one in a (differerent) community and the response rate was 11 percent," Ashe said.

The survey has a solid block of information from which to work as it considers possible changes in the building and service it provides, Granger said.

While the survey asked about use, possible changes and other information, Asche said "the big question was whether the respondent would support a library referendum."

Fifty percent of the respondents said they'd support a library referendum. Thirty-eight percent were not certain and 13 percent said they would not support a referendum.

The survey also asked about donations to the library. Thirty-two percent said they would donate and 47 percent were not sure. Twenty-one percent said they would not donate to a library.

Although the survey included a question about a referendum, the library has no set plan for renovation or expansion. However, a possible project has been discussed for a few years.

Granger said a project was discussed in the 1990s but that discussion dissolved until about 2014 when it was renewed. The library secured a grant to have a planning firm evaluate the library, she said. The library's foundation raised money for a conceptual design for a project.

The survey is a step in the process to a potential construction project, Granger and Barber said.

Barber said the library has three options, to renovate, renovate and expand and build new. The most likely option is to renovate and modestly expand, Granger said.